Belgian Eurovision website songfestival.be has today released an interview with the Head of VRT’s selection comittee for Eurovision, Gerrit Kerremans. Belgium has two broadcasters that take turns in choosing the artist. Both VRT and RTBF select their ESC artists internally. In recent years this process has always taken place behind closed doors. Now Mr Kerremans has shined some light on the challenges that VRT has faced.
1. Sennek’s non-qualification and the pressure for Belgium for qualify
“That went wrong in Lisbon. We underestimated the entire staging story. Sennek wanted to pack the audience in a traditional way with her voice. As VRT we have gone too far in that. We just forgot that hundreds of million people are watching at home. We realized it too late. We did not approach that well together with the staging team. I want to take responsibility for that. Despite having surrounded ourselves with people who have experience in this. We actually failed collectively at the time.”
Belgium hasn’t qualified in two years. While the country has done pretty well overall, with two fourth-place finishes in the final courtesy of Loic Nottet and Blanche, there’s pressure to get back on track.
“I think the pressure to do well every time is high. Now we are in a dip again. You can compare that with the Red Devils: Heroes of the nation, until they lose. It seemed obvious to RTBF to score time and time again. So that’s not it.”
Stromae is an artist that has been high on the wishlist of Belgian Eurovision fans. Gerrit Kerremans confirms that the VRT has been in contact with him multiple times.
“We have asked him a number of times. You never know. You are actually obliged to do so in your country. You must at least ask the artist with the most potential. Unfortunately, Stromae always says in a friendly and reasoned way ‘no.'”
Stromae comes from Brussels and has French as his mother language. But in fact this doesn’t matter. There is no restriction for either of the broadcasters to ask an artist from the other language region. VRT could ask Loic Nottet or Blanche, for example. And there is no restriction for these artists either.
But a problem comes in case of a victory. Which language region will organize the contest then? The one where the artist is from, or the one where the broadcaster is located? To avoid these type of painful questions, both broadcasters mostly play it safe and pick from their own region. However, exceptions confirm the rule. Walloon singer Axel Hirsoux was picked in the Flemish national final of the VRT. So it can happen.
3. The success of the Netherlands as trigger for VRT
‘That has been triggering us. Especially when they suddenly started sending big names, like Anouk and Ilse Delange. How do they do that, I wondered myself. To have success at such a big festival and at the same time convince such a big artist. It turned out, they had invited Belgians to join the Dutch ESC team. I though, wtf, why aren’t they working for us? In 2016 and 2018 they were luckily on our team”.
In the meantime, Belgian Eurovision fans have also seen how successful The Netherlands has become. And on online media and forums, some Belgian Eurovision fans are already dreaming. How great would it be to have a Belgian win, in The Netherlands, in Rotterdam. Especially since it’s a VRT (Flanders) year.
4. VRT wants to approach things differently this year
This year the VRT wants to change a couple of things in order to make the chance for success bigger again for Belgium. Mr Kerremans says that they’ve brought on new team members to help with that. And also they are talking to different artists.
“Yes, we will do it differently. The guidance must be top notch. Other people are joining that staging team. Oh, and rehearse! Rehearsing much more. For example, we didn’t do a multi-cam rehearsal with Laura. You have to train that.”
One of the new members added to the VRT ESC team is Christoffel Cocquyt. He’s an Artist & Repertoire expert. But also known as the manager Selah Sue, Gabriel Ríos, Milo Meskens and Novastar. The name of Selah Sue has also been high on the Belgian wishlist for a long time. Perhaps the fact her manager joined the VRT team will get things moving?
5. Finding an artist for Rotterdam 2020
Mr Kerremans says that VRT is currently searching for an artist.
“There are currently conversations with various people. But in 2018 we immediately asked Sennek the big question. It was already the third time we asked her. She was interested from the start. That is why we immediately made it our priority last year. Then you don’t have to encourage five other artists to participate”.
In 2018, Sennek was chosen, but other artists were also approached. Perhaps VRT is again in conversation with those artists — although not confirmed — including Flemish singer Natalia.
“Because in 2018 there have been conversations with her (Natalia) manager. Nothing went wrong there, but in the end we can only indicate one person. We try to make a difference with our entry. Some artists are quite interchangeable when you look at other countries. But don’t get me wrong: you can definitely go to the Songfestival with Natalia or Billie. Definitely”!
What do you think? Will Belgium be able to qualify this year with a new staging team? Will the Dutch win spur Belgium to success in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comment section below.